The customer journey in the digital age: reinventing the way we do marketing

In the digital age, the Internet, technology and social media have become integrated into our daily lives. This has had a dramatic impact on the way customers think, behave and make purchasing decisions. 

Social media is now considered to be the most popular online activity in the world. With people turning to websites instead of TV for entertainment and turning to Google for every need in life, it is hardly surprising that we are thought to be in the midst of a digital revolution. The only surprising fact is that so many businesses still choose to ignore this. 

For many years there has been a need for the way we perceive the customer journey to change, as businesses have found struggling to keep up with their customers as the digital shift sweeps the world. If we don’t adapt now we will inevitably fall behind.

So how do we reinvent our marketing in the age of technology and social media?  

Don’t Throw Out The Marketing Funnel, Adapt It
The marketing funnel may have served us well, but the truth is it came from a much simpler time when marketing, sales and advertising were a smaller playing field. Today, with the volume of technology at our fingertips, we see the growth of a new, empowered consumer. These consumers use the social networks, they speak to their peers and they seek advice on purchasing. Moving beyond traditional advertising and marketing when making a purchasing decision, these consumers seek independent research and expert reviews to help make more informed decisions. 

These changes in the decision making process need to be incorporated into the marketing planning process. This is why social media and other digital outlets for information and opinion need to be fully integrated into every company’s marketing plan. 

A useful place to start is the RACE Digital Marketing Improvement Framework (Chaffey, 2010) which is illustrated above.

Use Data To Improve Customer Experience
Surveys, feedback forms, comments and reviews are a traditional yet still very important way of gauging how well the current customer experience works. Finding out what makes a customer follow the path to purchase, and more importantly what deters them along the way, can help you to improve the overall journey. 

And these methods are a small portion of the data now available regarding customer experience. Thanks to social media channels, forums, blogs and more there are many ways to gather information on the customer experience. From listening to conversations about your brand on social media and forums, to monitoring reviews and mentions of your brand in blogs. 

Build Customer Relationships Using Social Media
Good customer relationships help you to gain useful data on the customer experience. Crucially, it promotes brand loyalty, which in the digital age is becoming a much stronger force in the customer journey. 

The best way to start building relationships with your customer base it to form a community online using social media platforms that you know your customers regularly use. Forming these communities will create a sense of loyalty for your brand and give you a source of data regarding your customer’s buying behaviour and opinions. And it will also give you a platform to further sell to these existing or potential customers by making them aware of other aspects of your brand they may not have previously been aware of. 

Use The Real Time Data To Get Ahead In Your Market
Because social media and the Internet are fast paced, you can use this to respond quicker to what is happening in your market. The faster you respond, the more ahead of your competition you can become. 

And the fast paced nature applies to the decision making process. As online shopping allows purchases to be made in seconds or minutes, rather than having to physically travel to a bricks and mortar shop, this means that the decision making process has been sped up. 

Some of these changes are much easier and cheaper to implement than others, but over time companies need to adapt their marketing to the new ways customers engage and buy. And in a society that has no intentions of slowing down, the sooner companies adapt, the better they will survive in the digital age. 

If you need a useful template for your marketing plan see one I prepared here or more help looking at marketing models, see this guide to essential marketing models

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